Cancer has been made a priority on the World Health Organisation’s global agenda as doctors warn that millions of patients are dying prematurely due to lack of access to appropriate treatment.
In the UAE, approximately 4,500 new cases of cancer are reported every year, with people now offered ten scientifically-backed recommendations by the World Cancer Research Fund to avoid the illness.
It is the WCRF’s first updated guidance in a decade and has made the strongest link yet between obesity and cancer.
Cancer prevention advice is the foundation of a new report by the WCRF, forming a global blueprint to reduce risk.
“These recommendations are useful to scientists to help determine future directions of research,” said Dr Kate Allen, World Cancer Research Fund International’s executive director of science and public affairs.
“Policymakers will find them useful because they can inform the development of policy to help people follow them, while communities, families and individuals can use them to help reduce their own cancer risk.”
Cancer survivors should use the list to highlight the best ways to reduce their chances of getting cancer, while health professionals can use them in their work with patients and the general public, Dr Allen said.
The ten recommendations are based on the latest science available, with analysis derived from extensive evidence published in Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Cancer: A Global Perspective.
It is the third expert report of its kind from WCRF and American Institute of Cancer Research.
Only evidence that strongly links a risk factor to cancer has been used to make each recommendation of weight control, exercise, healthy diet and restrictions on fast foods, meat, sugary drinks, alcohol and supplements.
Specific guidance is also offered for people with cancer and those breastfeeding.
The report said people should aim to follow as many of the recommendations as possible.
But doctors also said any lifestyle changes towards meeting the goals will go some way to reducing cancer rates.
A key performance indicator of the UAE National Agenda is to reduce cancer fatalities by almost 18 per cent by 2021.
The most recent UAE cancer figures released from the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi showed leukaemia was the most common male cancer, followed by colorectal, prostate, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and brain cancer.
In women, the DoH said breast cancer was the most common, followed by leukaemia, colorectal, thyroid and cancer of the uterus.
Dubai Health Authority introduced breast cancer screening at some health centres in 2014, with mammogram machines and breast cancer screening services at Al Barsha, Nad Al Hamar and Mizhar health centres.
Doctors advise first mammograms should be done at age 40, and annually thereafter.
“Those with a family history of breast cancer should begin screening earlier,” said Dr Nada Al Mulla, a DHA family medicine specialist.
“If a woman has a first-degree relative who was diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age; she should opt for yearly screening 10 years before the age of her relative’s diagnosis, and regular self-exams should start earlier.”
Eating and drinking properly are crucial to protect against cancer in the latest advice from the WCRF, following a review of hundreds of studies of more than 50 million people.
The data ties in with latest figures from the Global Burden of Disease Study, that showed more than 10 million are killed annually from diet related health conditions, a 11 per cent rise in the last decade.
The figures showed excess weight was responsible for 4.5 million deaths worldwide, rising by 29 per cent in the same ten-year period.
At the 71st World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva on May 26, ESMO, the leading professional organisation for medical oncology, delivered two statements positioning cancer as a priority on the WHO’s global agenda.
ESMO advocated the strengthening of health systems to achieve Universal Health Coverage and provide essential secondary healthcare services to the millions of cancer patients who die prematurely due to lack of access to appropriate treatment.
It has also called on the WHO to ensure governments take specific actions in the interest of cancer control.